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Irish jumps trainers hail efforts to increase opportunities

John Ryan, second from right, pictured with Icantsay at Punchestown on Wednesday
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John Ryan has hailed as "a wonderful idea" the first of Horse Racing Ireland's initiatives designed to increase opportunities for smaller trainers. 

At Punchestown on Wedneday, Ryan's Icantsay landed the second of the initial three races in the EBF-sponsored series of 20 handicaps.

The series, in which every race offers an inflated pot of €15,000, comprises 14 hurdles and six chases that have rating caps of 109 or 116, and County Tipperary-based Ryan is adamant it is a boon for trainers in the middle and lower tiers.

"Whoever's brainchild it was, it was a wonderful idea," he said. "It will give lads a chance.

"There'll only be one or two days in most horses, so you have to try to make the most of it. I had identified the Punchestown race for Icantsay a long time ago because of the prize-money.

"The handicapper has put him up 10lb, but at least he won something worth winning."

Eoin Doyle, who secured the most recent contest when Jefferson Davis scored at Clonmel on Thursday, has also given the enhancements a resounding seal of approval.

"Normally with these sort of horses, you'd have to win two races to win a pot like that, and that's not easy to do, so it's a nice pot for Clonmel of a Thursday night," Doyle said. "All these initiatives are welcome and we'll welcome any more of them too."

Vincent Halley won the first of the €15,000 handicaps with Mr Picotee at Kilbeggan last Friday, and the next is a handicap chase that has attracted 16 entries at Wexford on Wednesday. The average field size so far is 13.66, and HRI's owner relations manager Aidan McGarry is pleased with the take-up.

"It's early yet but it's positive to see three competitive races, with 11 being the smallest field size," he said of the series. "The intention was to cater for the middle trainer and owner and it seems to be coming to fruition."

More enhancements on the way

Other programme improvements yet to be initiated include six summer maiden hurdles for horses who have run three times without being placed, and an autumn schedule of maiden hurdles for horses that cost less than €30,000.

"I'll have an interest in every one of them," Ryan added of the various revisions. "I don't pay big money for horses and we'll have horses who ran three times over hurdles without being placed. When you're taking on Willie Mullins, Rich Ricci, Gigginstown and JP McManus horses every day of the week, they have a more expensive, better calibre horse.

"Now there'll be an opportunity to run in a lesser contest for a decent prize. When you see so many trainers going out of business, you must make it attractive for smaller owners, otherwise small trainers will become extinct.

"We saw Gigginstown having all four runners in a novice chase at Naas during the year and racing wouldn't be very interesting if you had too much of that. The sport would suffer from a public perspective.

"These races give the small man a chance and there'll be a different winner of each one. It's a brilliant idea."

When you see so many trainers going out of business, you must make it attractive for smaller owners, otherwise small trainers will become extinct